Despite torrential rains in London and south east England, voters headed to polls on Thursday to cast their ballots in a historic referendum on whether Britain should remain in or exit from the European Union (EU).
Torrential rains swamped the British capital as polling stations opened at 7 a.m., BBC reported. Flood warnings were issued for parts of London and Essex as parts of the capital were expected to see a month’s rainfall in a matter of hours — voting in the referendum will continue till 10 p.m.
An estimated 46,499,537 people — a record number for a British poll — are entitled to take part in the vote.
The registered voters include Britons from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar — a British territory off the southern coast of Spain. These represent all 380 local government area in England, Scotland and Wales, plus one each for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.
British citizens living abroad have already cast their vote by mail.
After voting in the referendum closes, sealed ballot boxes will be collected and transported to the count venues for each of the 382 local counting areas. The counting will then begin.
For the count, Britain has been divided into 382 counting areas which will first verify each ballot, allowing each area to announce the turn-out, The Telegraph said in a report.
The results will then be collated and fed by local counting officers to regional counting officers in 12 electoral regions, who will only announce their results when all the areas have concluded their counts.
Unlike at a general election, when MPs only need to win a majority in their constituency to win the seat, every vote counts in this referendum.
The result will be declared by Jenny Watson, chairman of the Electoral Commission and the referendum’s chief counting officer, at Manchester Town Hall, although no physical counting of ballot papers is taking place there.
According to the Electoral Commission, the results will come in during a frantic three-hour period on Friday, between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
The Electoral Commission is forecasting that turnout could be as high as 80 per cent (significantly more than the 66 per cent who voted in last year’s General Election).
Meanwhile, police said they were not expecting trouble as tens of millions of Britons are expected to vote.
Despite a bitter and heated campaign, police said they expected a peaceful day. Police commanders have been issued with extensive guidance on how to minimise the chances of electoral fraud with police chiefs keen to avoid getting caught up in the rancour surrounding Brexit.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “While there is currently no intelligence to suggest issues will arise around Thursday’s poll, police forces are monitoring the situation locally and putting appropriate plans in place to ensure a fair and peaceful electoral process.”